Archive for September, 2008

 “Tokiiro (ibis color) flying into the sky ”  Musings hachiyorenge

There are several “Japanese crested ibis” on my bookshelf. The logo for Kodansha Ltd.’s academic pocketbook series is this bird, which is shown stepping along the ground on the cover of each book.

The bird reportedly was chosen as a decoration for books in the series because it was thought to be a manifestation of the god of wisdom in ancient Egypt.

But my emotions become bittersweet when I put together the bird’s scientific name, Nipponia nippon, and the word wisdom.

The small animals the birds eat are disappearing due to the use of pesticides, while weasels brought in to drive away wild rabbits causing damage to farms are the bird’s natural predator.

What caused the Japanese-born crested ibis to go extinct was the wisdom–or shallow cleverness–of human beings.

Yesterday, crested ibis flew free in Japanese skies for the first time in 27 years.

As part of its efforts to have the ibis reestablish itself in the wild, the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center in Sado, Niigata Prefecture, released 10 ibis it artificially bred from a pair of crested ibis born in China.

I saw them flying into the sky on TV, their wings displaying a color akin to that of a cloud in a red sky at dawn or the color of blood seen through the skin. Some children who have heard the word tokiiro (ibis color) will have been able to confirm what the color is by seeing the birds in flight.

I would like to quote from a choka poem titled “Toki Genso” (Crested Ibis Fantasy) composed by Shuji Miya.


Passing on life as it [otherwise] heads for extinction, the species is preserved

Only a small number of Nipponia nippon remain

A bird that can be hardly seen

Like the bird’s sorrow itself…


The vision of a flock of ibis may soon be within our grasp.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

「朱鷺色」大空を舞う姿・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
わが書棚にも、何羽かのトキがいる。講談社学術文庫のシンボルマークがその鳥で、各巻の表紙に地を歩む姿が描かれている。古代エジプトで知恵の神の化身とされた縁で、書籍を飾る役目を担ったらしい◆学名「ニッポニア・ニッポン」に知恵という言葉を重ねるとき、感慨はほろ苦い。えさの小動物が農薬で姿を消す。田畑を荒らす野ウサギの駆除に、天敵テンを持ち込む…。日本産のトキを絶滅に追いやったのは人間の知恵、もしくは浅知恵である◆きのう、トキが27年ぶりに日本の空を飛んだ。新潟県佐渡市の佐渡トキ保護センターが中国産のつがいから人工繁殖させ、育ててきた10羽で、野生に復帰させる試験としての放鳥である◆朝焼けの雲のような、肌に透ける血潮のような、独特な色の翼で大空を舞う姿をテレビで見た。言葉に聞いていた「朱鷺色(ときいろ)」とはどんな色か、自分の目で確かめた子供たちもいただろう◆歌人、宮柊二(みやしゅうじ)さんの長歌「朱鷺幻想」から。〈絶えゆかむ命をつなぎ、種の持続 僅(わず)かに残す、Nipponia nippon、幻の鳥その悲しみのごと…〉。群れ飛ぶ幻想にもう少しで手が届く。


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 “Blood is limited to just one generation.”  Musings hachiyorenge

The late rakugo comic storyteller Kokontei Shincho reportedly always said, “Blood is limited to just one generation.”

Different from his father, Kokontei Shinsho V, who was well known for his daring behavior, Shincho honed his orthodox style of comic storytelling handed down from the Edo period (1603-1867).

Shincho’s favorite adage symbolizes lofty words that could be uttered by someone who mastered a specific field not as the result of hereditary privilege, but despite it–for some, a famous name is not a free pass, but a cross to bear.

A similar observation was heard not once but twice, with a sigh of disappointment, when talking about the political world. The grandson of a former prime minister and the son of a former prime minister abandoned their administrations too easily. The remark goes: “His grandfather and his father must have been tougher [than them]. Blood is limited to just one generation.”

In a speech made after being elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party on Monday, Taro Aso, 68, noted that the date, Sept. 22, was coincidently the birthday of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. People who learned a lesson from the failures of his predecessors (Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda), would not have been as emotional as Aso when he made his speech from the podium.

Second-generation and third-generation lawmakers are becoming synonymous with weakness.

“This is the place I have chosen as a place to die,” go the words to the song “Hana to Ryu” (Flower and Dragon) that Aso loves to sing in karaoke.

No matter when the next general election is held, what is required of the next prime minister is perseverance to carry out policies responsibly without yielding to pressure.

Blood is limited to just one generation–with this phrase in mind, it is advisable for Aso to leave his grandfather out of things for the time being.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

血は一代限りだよ・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華
生前、古今亭志ん朝さんは口癖のように語ったという。「血は一代限りだよ」。父・志ん生の破天荒に対し、正統派の江戸前落語を磨き上げた。七光りを恩寵(おんちょう)ではなく十字架として背負い、わが道を究め得た人の誇り高き言葉だろう◆同じ言葉が政界では一度ならず二度、失望の吐息とともに語られた。誰それ元首相の孫、誰それ元首相の子があっさり政権を投げ出し、「おじいちゃんやお父さんはもっとしぶとかったろうに、血は一代限りだね」と◆自民党の新総裁にきのう選ばれた麻生太郎氏(68)が喜びの挨拶(あいさつ)で語ったところでは、くしくも祖父・吉田茂元首相の誕生日であったという。“系図倒れ”に懲りた国民は、壇上のご本人ほどは感慨を催さなかったろう◆2世、3世議員は「ひ弱さ」の代名詞になりつつある。〈俺の死に場所 ここだと決めた…〉は麻生氏がカラオケで愛唱するという「花と竜」の一節だが、総選挙が近かろうと遠かろうと、次期首相に求められるのは政見を責任もって実行に移す二枚腰、三枚腰のしぶとさである◆血は一代限り、おじいちゃんの名前はしばらく封印するのもいい。

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”Walk the tightrope of funding…” Musings hachiyorenge

Many people born immediately after the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War had names chosen to celebrate Japan’s victory, such as Katsutoshi (the two kanji together mean victory) and Kikuko (three kanji together mean a child who is jubilant for a long while).

The real given name of former Keio University President Saku Sato (1905-1996) was Katsukuma, which means victory over a bear. Here, bear meant Russia.

It was a war Japan fought against a major power, forcing the country to walk a tightrope with its war expenditures–mostly covering them with debts.

Nonetheless, these baby names reflected how relieved and jubilant the Japanese public was after winning the war.

When referring to the tightrope of funding, we should not forget how lucky the country was to have procured the funds necessary to finance the war.

Korekiyo Takahashi (1854-1936), then deputy governor of the Bank of Japan, was struggling to find a way for the government to finance the war. While in Britain, Takahashi had a chance meeting with an American man who sat next to him during a dinner. The man ran a securities firm, and somehow Takahashi managed to get the man to promise a loan to cover necessary war funds.

The firm, Kuhn, Loeb & Co., became Japan’s savior and later merged with Lehman Brothers.

Lehman Brothers went bankrupt Monday with 64 trillion yen in debts. The prestigious 158-year-old securities firm, which played a part in a key event in modern Japanese history, was swept away by a tsunamilike financial crisis. Global financial markets have been shaken and stunned by this development.

In the United States, a strong financial market with rising stock prices is called a bull market. A sinking market is called a bear market.

The prevalent question of “Who will be next to fall?” reflects the bear market trend. Will the bear market continue? It seems we will not yet be able to sigh in relief until we beat the bear market.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

“綱渡り“世界の金融・証券市場・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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Agnes Chan, a pop singer and TV personality who serves as a goodwill ambassador of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, reportedly could not stop crying when she saw a young child enter a brothel with a customer during an inspection tour of Thailand she made.

The movie “Yami no Kodomotachi” (Kids in the Dark), whose subject is human trafficking, has created a stir. The movie features kids from poor Thai families who are sexually abused by pedophiles after being sold illicitly to brothels. They are used for child pornography, their organs are sold, and those infected with HIV are abandoned in plastic trash bags.

The movie is based on the novel of the same title written by Yan So Gil, a writer and Korean resident in Japan. Cases similar to what are described in the movie have been reported from across the world, according to the Japan Committee for UNICEF. Victims of human trafficking aged less than 18 are estimated to top 1.2 million a year.

The World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children will be held in Brazil in November with representatives from governments and private organizations attending to discuss various issues, including the increasingly prevalent child pornography on the Internet.

To boost international cooperation in investigating such cases, the ruling parties submitted to the previous ordinary session of the Diet a bill to revise the law banning child prostitution as well as possession and public display of pornographic images of children. The bill has been carried over to the next Diet session.

Little progress has been made in deliberations on the bill. But we may not turn our eyes from the miserable situation the children of the world are put in.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

子供たちの悲惨な状況から・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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There’s a shopping area close to my house where a tofu shop and a butcher stand side by side, with a vegetable store a few shops away.

While taking a stroll recently, I saw blocks of tofu displayed in a water tank, cuts of meat on shelves, and piles of green onions and Chinese cabbage. It made me think: “It’s good to have yosenabe [stew].”

The yosenabe hot plate season has not quite started, but I’d like to draw attention to a haiku by Seison Yamaguchi (1892-1988).


Yosenabe ya

Mukashi mukashi no

Hito omou

It means:


I think of people

from old, old days


Autumn nights are not so bad, the poem suggests.

In my mind, I set about cooking the various ingredients I saw in a pot. And while it’s a rather unusual image, the Liberal Democratic Party’s hidden intentions in the presidential race–which five candidates are contesting–can be found in my imaginary pot.

The five candidates include men with experience, young talents and the first woman to contest the LDP presidential race.

Many of them are well versed in specific policy areas.

The LDP is apparently thinking that if these various “ingredients” are given time to boil in voters’ heads–with steam billowing out of the pot–it will stimulate their appetite and work to the advantage of the LDP when the House of Representatives is dissolved for a general election, the countdown of which has started.

But in the end, this is an imaginary pot. Only one person will be elected president of the party–whether it will be Green Onion-san or Tofu-san.

But if the candidates can boil down their respective policy proposals through debates and on the stump, and create a stock that can help a new cabinet execute policies, the presidential race that has been derided by the opposition camp as a farce will not be meaningless.

Let’s listen to the political views of each candidate, while being careful not to be deceived by any sugar-coating candidates may apply.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

野党から茶番と批判される総裁選・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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“Turning a blind eye to something unpleasant…” Musings hachiyorenge

In Act 4 of Moliere’s comedy “Le Tartuffe,” Tartuffe, a con man, says: “It is public scandal that constitutes offense, and to sin in secret is not to sin at all.”

These words crossed my mind in June last year when a 17-year-old rikishi of the Tokitsukaze stable died after being physically abused by the stablemaster and his senior wrestlers. The Japan Sumo Association did not summon the stablemaster to question him about the incident until the Education, Science and Technology Ministry prodded it to do so three months later. This is tantamount to taking action only when a fuss is made.

The same words crossed my mind again when I heard JSA Chairman Kitanoumi say: “If they [Roho and Hakurozan] test positive [for cannabis use], I suggest that their samples be checked by another examination agency” and “I don’t object to the two taking part in the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.” He might as well have said, “Hey, there’s no need to make a fuss about things.”

Kitanoumi stepped down to take responsibility for scandals over cannabis use by sumo wrestlers after caving in to overwhelming pressure from the whole of society. As if confirming Tartuffe’s observation, the JSA was unconcerned about the wrongdoings themselves and was only worried about the commotion that occurred after the wrongdoings were revealed.

This represents the collapse of the principle of “turning a blind eye to something unpleasant,” which the JSA has upheld.

The sumo wrestler’s formal attire is the mawashi belt. The JSA has no alternative but to start over again after stripping down to its loincloth, revealing old and new wounds for all to see.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

“くさい物に蓋”人が騒ぎ立てるから・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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“Beautiful Nation” and “Realization of Society …” Musings hachiyorenge

Long ago, small theaters employed a technique for audiences bored with the entertainment being performed: A theater employee lowered the curtain by 1 to 2 sun (3 to 6 centimeters) and immediately raised it again, pretending it was all a mistake.

The measure was intended to reassure the audience by demonstrating that the performance was nearing its end, according to an essay titled “Geitosei” (Making a Living in the Entertainment World) by Okamoto Bunya, who was reputed as a master storyteller of the Shinnaibushi school of joruri, a traditional type of dramatic recitation.

The technique was employed to ensure that even an unpopular show was performed right through to its end–and not cut short in the middle.

Indeed, the popularity of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda had been hovering low–enough to allow the curtain to be lowered by 1 to 2 sun.

Saying: “It’s not going well, is it? So, I’ll say goodbye,” and walking off the stage in the middle of the performance would make everybody want to demand a refund for their tickets.

Vocal specialists are said able to turn every breath into a voice, allowing them to sing in front of a candle without moving the flame.

Even given the uphill battles he faced in dealing with the divided Diet, the prime minister has no excuse for doing nothing other than sighing and must bear the brunt of blame for having failed to vocalize his intentions and desires to the Japanese people.

The prime minister blew out the flame of his administration with his own breath.

What will be demanded of the next prime minister is, above all, his or her ability to turn breaths into voices.

The next prime minister must perform on the almost devastated stage following the grand failure of two performances: “Beautiful Nation” and “Realization of [Society] Free From Anxiety.”

Whoever becomes the next leader, he or she needs to be ready to grapple with this thorny task.

The Yomiuri Shimbun. Musings. The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun.

「美しい国」「安心実現」さよなら・・・ 編集手帳 八葉蓮華

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